Editorial: Strange Bedfellows



Talk about strange bedfellows. Poles apart theologically. Diametrically opposed regarding the church’s direction. What could possibly unite adamant progressives and committed evangelicals within The United Methodist Church? A plan for the future of the UM Church called “A Way Forward.” Put forth by some of our denomination’s leading pastors, this plan would allow each annual conference to determine if it will ordain practicing gay clergy. It would also give each local church the authority to marry gay couples if it voted to do so. Interestingly enough, progressives and evangelicals are united in finding this plan utterly unacceptable.

Dr. Dorothee Benz wrote a scathing critique of the plan titled “A Way Forward for Whom?” She is the chairperson of Methodists in New Directions, one of the denomination’s most influential progressive organizations located in New York. Benz hits hard and hits early in her analysis, stating that the “primary purpose” of “A Way Forward” is to “protect the institution, not the people.” My guess is this is the first time the authors of “A Way Forward” have been tagged as institutionalists, but that’s how Dr. Benz views them.

Benz goes on to state that a proposal that allows some annual conferences to refuse to ordain practicing gay clergy is unjust, as is allowing some congregations to reject pastors who are living with their same-sex partner. She writes, “I dare say if we proposed that it be permissible for a congregation to reject clergy on the basis of race or sex or ethnicity, we would see that this isn’t an acceptable ‘solution.’” For Benz, the question that matters is whether or not a plan creates “genuine conditions of equality.” And here she cannot compromise. In her words, “There is no neutrality.”

Evangelicals have many problems with the local option as put forth in “A Way Forward.” Primarily, we would be forced to support a church that allows its pastors, congregations, and annual conferences to promote what we believe the Bible teaches to be sinful. “A Way Forward” expects us to compromise our convictions that the moral teachings of God’s Word are eternally true and authoritative. And that is something we can never do.

“A Way Forward” is sometimes touted as a way of bringing a divided church together. And, if only the evangelicals would compromise a little, we could all live in peace. But Dr. Benz’ editorial could not be more forthright in stating that “A Way Forward” will not end the debate, stop the disobedience to the Book of Discipline, or bring unity to the church. Justice for some is still injustice in her mind. Consequently, she makes clear that true progressives will never stop fighting for “justice” until the position of the UM Church regarding marriage and sexuality is thoroughly progressive, affirming gay marriage, gay sex, and gay ordination in every annual conference and local church.

So, how is “A Way Forward” a compromise? Evangelicals must compromise and live with a church that promotes what we believe to be sin — and in return, we receive what? Nothing. No end to the debate. No promise that the demonstrations at General Conference will end. No assurances that progressives will stop the fight to overturn the present biblical position in every annual conference until there is only one position within the UM Church — theirs.

I asked one of the endorsers of “A Way Forward” what made him think the plan would stop the fighting within the church? And he said we would have to trust the progressives when they tell us they will honor the compromise. But, that’s exactly what they are telling us they will not do! Rather than ending the acrimony and disunity we witness at General Conference, “A Way Forward” would bring that anger and disharmony into our annual conferences every year until the progressives win them all.

I do trust the progressives. I do take them at their word. And what they tell us is that they aren’t leaving, they won’t compromise, and they won’t stop. Any plan that does not take those realities into account is, well, lacking.

“A Way Forward” has accomplished what nothing else has been able to do. It has united progressives and evangelicals in agreeing that there must be a better solution to our problems than a plan that asks both sides to compromise their deeply held principles, does nothing to resolve our differences, and only guarantees that there will be more hurt and acrimony in the future.

Rob Renfroe is the president and publisher of Good News.


  1. theenemyhatesclarity says

    I attend a UM Church with attendance of 200+ each Sunday I have been a member for 30+ years.. We have faithfully paid 100% our apportionments for years, but we are living on the edge financially.

    The Annual Conference to which our church belongs is evenly split on this issue. If A Way Forward” passes, the battle will shift from every four years at General Conference to every year at Annual Conference. It will also come to our church. I know these people well. Many will leave. Even more will reduce their giving, or restrict it to local church expenditures. A reasonably thriving church will become a shell. It will be inevitable.

    Traditionalists will not march, take over meetings, bully the opposition or generally hold their breath until they get their way. Unlike progressives, they will play by the rules. They will also leave.

    My prayer is that it does not come to this, but if “A Way Forward” passes, my church and many others in our Annual Conference will soon disappear.

    In Christ,

    The Enemy Hates Clarity

    • The only way forward is to un-unit the church. Until that happens this will go on and on and on.

      I live in California. Our church is cash poor, and constantly struggling to pay its bills and share of apportionments. The church is full of progressives. The liberal leaning churches will have a very difficult time financially when the Church splits. This is why they fight to keep the church united and to change it to their own ideology. They know.

      The Way Forward is Clearly Before Us. Just Open Your Eyes.

      To the Methodist Corporation – Stop wringing your hands, and do what you were elected to do. Make a decision already. If you have to un-ordain bishops and pastors for not following the Book of Discipline then do it already. Nobody ever talks about that. In the real world, where all of the rest of us work, if we don’t follow the rules, we get fired. Duh.


  2. Mary E. Logan says

    Bishop Minerva Carcaño 1030 Via los Padres
    FUMC Episcopal Office Santa Barbara, CA 93111
    P.O. Box 6006 September, 2014
    Pasadena, CA 91102

    Dear Bishop Minerva Carcano,
    I am writing in the hope that political issues will not divide Methodism. Many of us like to have an “open church” but find it difficult to have the controversial political agenda of the LGBT supported; just as we hope not to have Republican or Democrat or other political views supported. People of faith need to love and accept all people as God’s children, but they need not become involved in validating these lifestyles.
    Whether or not homosexuals choose homosexuality is unrelated to the question of whether society ought to regard homosexuality as an equally valid way of life and approve same-sex marriage. If gays have no choice, they deserve sympathy. Sympathy is one thing, gay marriage and the denial of our value system is quite radical. Gay marriage totally changes the definition of marriage. (Dean Hamer, originally reported in Time Magazine, 1993, “finding a gay gene”. Hamer later conceded, upon investigation, that his pseudo-scientific study did not support a genetic cause for homosexuality. (Jan. 30, 1998, Washington Blade.)
    It is not overstated to say that the Torah’s prohibition of non-marital sex made the creation of Western civilization possible. It revolutionized the barbaric unrestrained sexual practices of the world. It produced exclusive man-woman marital sex and considered it sacred, holy, and sanctified.
    In 2008 our Conference voted not to have churches make a decision between conforming and transforming congregations because it would be divisive. Now LGBT and “Homophobic” seem to be appearing in our literature and promoted.
    Do people of faith need to become involved in validating controversial lifestyles?

    In Peace,
    Mary Ellen Logan, FUMC Santa Barbara
    cc: Rev. Dr. Cedrick D. Bridgeforth, The Rev. Dr. Mark Richardson

    Attached: Support for man-woman marriage

    P.S. The Ramsey Colloquium, a group of Jewish, Protestant and Catholic theologians, ethicists, philosophers and scholars who meet periodically to consider questions on morality, religion and public life write, “Public concern about homosexuality is preeminently a concern about the vulnerabilities of the young. This, we are persuaded, is a legitimate and urgent public concern… Marriage and the family are institutions necessary for our continued social well-being. In an individualistic society that tends toward liberation from all constraint, marriage and family are fragile and in need of careful and continuing support.”

    LGBT Task Force proposals include: 1) Gay Marriage rights are equivalent to traditional marriage. (Homosexual couples in domestic partnerships and heterosexual couples in marriages have identical civil rights except the right to use the term marriage.)
    2 Lowering the age of sexual consent. (“One out of every 6 minor boys is sexually abused by a male Studies show that 50% of gays were sexually abused” Time Magazine, 1982) At Berkeley City Hall picketers have carried signs stating “Man-Boy Love.”) 3) Presentation in schools, public and private, at all grade levels: “Homosexuality is a normal choice equivalent to traditional marriage.” (Harvard Director of Behavioral Sciences said, “It’s a good bet that substantial numbers of teens have the capacity to grow in either direction.” Greater public support for gays will make it easier for some vulnerable young to be lured into the gay lifestyle. A former gay, Joe Dallas, says, “Confusion about sexual identity during adolescence is common and students shouldn’t be exploited with premature suggestions about what their sexual identity is or isn’t.”
    The unwary public told it’s a right between consenting adults
    In his ’82 book “Shaping Your Child’s Sexual Identity,” George Rekers regrets the fact that “homosexuality has been sold to the unwary public as a right between consenting adults.” Wherever homosexuality has been encouraged, far more people have engaged in it.

    LGBT Task Force seems to feel that prohibiting gay marriage means that society differs only in degree from those who declare homosexuality “an abomination.” Gays shout “homophobia.” Its insidiousness lies in dismissing and demeaning a human being whose values a speaker dislikes. Most people are on a spectrum in their acceptance of gays.
    Research stop 1980s
    LGBT has had hundreds of links and conferences on how to change public opinion and stifle opposition. The mid- ’80s did produce: “What every thoughtful parent must know about Homosexuality,” by Peter and Barbara Wyden. Since the ’80s psychiatric researchers have had little interest in doing research in a field where they will be attacked and labeled “homophobic.” While psychiatric research has come to a standstill, research for AIDS has skyrocketed and is costing our government billions and creates higher insurance rates for everyone.

    U.S. Government, 2014: 1.6% of U.S. population is gay.
    It seems a bit much in that only 1.6 % of our national population is gay. Should the church be in the business of promoting political points of this 1.6 percent? By and large, it is society, not the individual that chooses whether homosexuality will be widely practiced. A society’s values, much more than individuals’ tendencies, determine the extent of homosexuality in that society.

    Black ministers in Boston area oppose gay marriage
    The Greater Boston’s black clergy have taken a stand in the debate over same-sex marriage with their insistence that the quest by gays for marriage is not a civil rights issue. Gay marriage would contribute to further erosion of traditional family structure in the black community. One minister said black ministers have many reasons for speaking out against gay marriage. “We’re weighing in on this because we’re concerned with the epidemic rate of fatherlessness in America and in our community, and we don’t think gay marriage helps that cause… some say there is no difference between same-sex marriage and interracial marriage, but we believe the difference is enormous.” (Associated Press, 2004). In 2008 our Conference voted not to have churches decide between conforming and transforming congregations because it would divide churches. Can the Bishop keep forcing this subject?

    Blacks and gays
    Blacks have been discriminated against for what they are and homosexuals have been discriminated against for what they do. A moral distinction can be made between the two in a handful of areas. It may be necessary for society to oppose certain behavior. We do it all the time. Overeaters may not voluntarily choose to overeat but the fact they have not voluntarily chosen to overeat does not mean that overeating is a good thing. Stutters can’t be radio commentators, and the tone-deaf can’t be conductors. People with mentally disorders aren’t likely to be leaders.

    Vulnerabilities of the young
    The Ramsey Colloquium is a group of Jewish, Protestant and Catholic theologians, ethicists, philosophers and scholars who meet periodically to consider questions on morality, religion and public life. They write, “Public concern about homosexuality is preeminently a concern about the vulnerabilities of the young. This, we are persuaded, is a legitimate and urgent public concern… Marriage and the family are institutions necessary for our continued social well-being. In an individualistic society that tends toward liberation from all constraint, marriage and family are fragile and in need of careful and continuing support.” Approving homosexual marriage would gradually take civilization back 5,000 years to pre-Torah days. It is impossible for us who live thousands of years after Judaism to begin to perceive the extent to which unrestrained sex dominated life.

  3. Well said Rob. It’s really “A Way Downward” in the direction of a very hot place. Some tricky clergy and bishops are asking us to excuse the same-sex crowd so we can all get along together. It doesn’t do any good for us to excuse them when they need God’s forgiveness. That happens when a person repents and turn back to God, leaving their old life behind and living a New Life in Christ. It is just plain wrong to even consider going along with this deception. There is only one gospel and no compromising the Good News. We owe God this. At GC 2016 we can return to being a holy people serving a holy God by doing something to move these tricksters out of the way. Make a straight path for the Lord!

  4. sounds like a sexual free for all? unconditional love means you always come back together

    • Good point Scott, we are to love unconditionally, as Christ loves us unconditionally. Jesus also said that one day He will come in Glory and separate the sheep to His right side and the goats to His left. That sounds to me like we all need to do everything we can to follow Christ in the here and now.

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